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With four rounds left to play in the PRO14 Championship, it’s a big rugby Saturday for our Welsh sides with increased engagement around the remaining games as we enter the most crucial part of the season.

With places for the Guinness PRO14 Final Series at stake, as well as Champions Cup places to secure the impact and outcomes of three big games on Saturday has an increased focus for both players and supporters.

There’s an added boost as international players return home after a successful Six Nations contest for players in the PRO14 Championship in Wales, Ireland and Scotland, with the Celtic Nations finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd for the first time since 1975.

Cardiff Blues are first up on Saturday afternoon as they host Ulster at Cardiff Arms Park (kick off 15:15) in the last regular season fixture on their home soil in the current campaign. The Ospreys host Leinster at the Liberty Stadium (kick off 19:35) with the Scarlets travelling to Munster (kick off 17:30).  The Dragons hosted Toyota Cheetahs on Friday evening with a disappointing last night of the season at Rodney Parade losing out 17-29 to the South African side.

CARDIFF BLUES 

Cardiff Blues have made seven changes for their Guinness PRO14 clash with Ulster – the last regular season fixture at the Arms Park in the current campaign.

Cardiff Blues are in hot pursuit of a place in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series and they have momentum on their side. Danny Wilson’s troops have won their last four games on the spin and find themselves fourth in Conference A heading in to Round 18.

With the race for the PRO14 Final Series intensifying both sides will be desperate to keep on track as they chase third place in their respective conferences.

Danny Wilson’s side are boosted by the availability of their Wales contingent.  In total there are nine internationals in the starting XV and four more on the bench.

In the pack Matthew Rees and Scott Andrews come into the front-row, while Seb Davies joins George Earle in the second row. Josh Turnbull moves into the back-row and Ellis Jenkins steps up from the bench. At half-back Tomos Williams has overcome a knock to partner Jarrod Evans, while Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo combine in the centre. One further change sees USA captain Blaine Scully replace Aled Summerhill.

Wilson said: “We’ve had four wins on the bounce and won eight of our last 10 in Europe and the PRO14 so it’s a good place to be.

“We knew at the beginning of the last block that if we won four games we would give ourselves the chance to go and do something. We’ve done that and now we have to take that opportunity we have created.

“The first stage of that is trying to win against a good Ulster team at the Arms Park and if we do that it keeps us right in the hunt – we desperately want to chase the Cheetahs down and get into that third spot. Ulster have a lot of very dangerous individual players who collectively on their day are outstanding. I’m sure they will go as fully loaded as they can, in terms of their Irish internationals as well, because they need the wins.

“With four games left we are very aware of the type of team that’s going to come to the Arms Park. It’s going to be a real tough one but we can also come back to our recent form and our home form in general.”

The fixture will also be Danny Wilson’s last at the helm at Cardiff Arms Park, unless the Blues triumph in their European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Edinburgh. If they win they are guaranteed a home semi-final.

Following Ulster and Edinburgh, Wales’ Capital Region embark on a two-week tour of South Africa, in which they play Toyota Cheetahs and then Southern Kings.

Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Blaine Scully, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Owen Lane; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Gethin Jenkins (capt), Matthew Rees, Scott Andrews, George Earle, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Rhys Gill, Dillon Lewis, Ben Murphy, Macauley Cook, Lloyd Williams, Steve Shingler, Garyn Smith

OSPREYS

The hosts, who have won their last two games in the Guinness PRO14, will be looking to get their Champions Cup ambitions back on track against the Conference B leaders.

Ospreys currently lie in sixth position in Conference A, 12 points behind Cardiff Blues and the automatic third-place Champions Cup qualification spot.  However, they are only three points off Connacht, with a game in hand, and finishing fourth would just book them a play-off clash against their counterparts in Conference B.

Leinster currently lead Conference B by three points ahead of Scarlets, who face Munster Rugby at Thomond Park on Saturday.

Ospreys Interim Head Coach, Allen Clarke, said: “It’s been a month without any game time so everybody is really looking forward to Saturday night.

“We’ve been able to welcome back quality and experience into the group this week and we’re in a good place as far as preparation is concerned. It says a lot about our environment that players are making themselves available straight off the back of a busy Six Nations campaign, key individuals want to pull on the shirt for these big games.

“We are playing a quality outfit on Saturday, whatever team Leinster send out will be full of top, top players. We respect the opposition and understand what we are up against, but our focus is always on ourselves and on taking care of our own business.”

The Ospreys team to play Leinster at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday 24th March 2018, 7.35pm KO is as follows: 15 Dan Evans; 14 Jeff Hassler; 13 Kieron Fonotia; 12 Ashley Beck; 11 Hanno Dirksen; 10 Dan Biggar; 9 Tom Habberfield; 1 Nicky Smith; 2 Scott Otten; 3 Dmitri Arhip; 4 Bradley Davies; 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Capt); 6 Olly Cracknell; 7 Justin Tipuric; 8 Sam Cross

Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips; 17 Rhodri Jones; 18 Ma’afu Fia; 19 Adam Beard; 20 Rob Mccosker; 21 Matthew Aubrey; 22 Sam Davies; 23 Owen Watkin

SCARLETS

Scarlets and Munster are both looking to close the gap on their respective Conference leaders as they go head-to-head at Thomond Park.

Scarlets are three points behind Conference B leaders Leinster, but with just four games of the regular season remaining, they can’t afford to lose any ground if they hope to host a semi-final in the Guinness Pro14 Final Series.

Scarlets Loose forward Tadhg Beirne will make his 50th appearance for the Scarlets against Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday evening.

Following the conclusion of the Six Nations campaign Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has included a number of international faces in the starting XV with Wales centre Scott Williams named as captain for the Guinness PRO14 clash.

Steff Evans, Rhys Patchell and Aled Davies also return to the backline alongside Paul Asquith, Tom Varndell and Tom Williams. Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Aaron Shingler and James Davies return from Wales camp for the clash with Dylan Evans, Beirne and Will Boyde completing the set.

Looking ahead to the game head coach Wayne Pivac said; “We’re integrating some of the internationals back in to the squad. Last season some guys came back the first week, some the second. It’s slightly different this time around being alive in both competitions, it’s a little bit of a juggling act, we’ve got an eye on next week in terms of the preparation so it’s been an interesting exercise.

“The focus this week has been getting everyone back and the integration process. It’s about getting our selection and our preparation right, rather than concentrating on Munster.

“It’s the first time we’ve been alive in both competition in a long time; it’s slightly different focus from the same time last year. We’re keeping an eye on two competitions, it’s going to be interesting to see how the boys will manage the extra pressure – a challenge I know they’re looking forward to.

“We’re looking forward to Saturday and hopefully we’ll be able to keep the pressure on Leinster.”

Scarlets team to take on Munster at Thomond Park, Saturday 24th March, kick-off 17:30: 15 Tom Williams, 14 Tom Varndell, 13 Scott Williams ©, 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Aled Davies, 1 Dylan Evans, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 David Bulbring, 6 Aaron Shingler, 7 James Davies, 8 Will Boyde

Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Lewis Rawlins, Josh Macleod, Jonathan Evans, Dan Jones, Steff Hughes